Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Nature of Work

"Most (immigrants) are workaholics," Guillen said. "This country can't survive without (them). I'm sorry but a lot of people from this country are very lazy. We aren't. A lot of people from this country want to be on the computer and sending e-mail to people. We do the hard work. We're the ones who have to go out and work in the sun all day long." – Ozzie Guillen – Manager of the Chicago White Sox

I read this quote recently in the Chicago Tribune. Ozzie was reacting to the new law in Arizona. But, it caught my attention because I have often been plagued by the thought that the work I do is pointless, occasionally even damaging. I don’t make anything people physically use. I don’t grow anything for people to eat.

I now develop websites. Before this, I worked on database development. In some cases I can see a direct cause and effect between a website I developed and a businesses’ increased revenue. But often I question the bottom line value of what I do. Occasionally, I am bothered by the idea that all I ever develop is for soliciting money – whether it be for a non-profit or a business. Is that all the internet is about? Just a bunch of billboards?

Why do I care if I’m doing something useful to society or “meaningful”? I finished a book recently: Shop Class as Soulcraft
by Matthew B. Crawford. In it he extols the virtues of working with your hands, as opposed to cubicle-based office work. It’s a good read. Maybe I should have learned how to be a motorcycle mechanic.


Perplexio said...

Speaking of being a motorcycle mechanic, have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It's quite an intriguing read.

Voice of Doom and Gloom said...

That is a great book. I've read it a couple of times, but not recently. I have it here... I'll pull it out and put it on the pile. Thanks for reminding me of it.